I am sure by now we are all familiar with the term “superfoods”. Whether you have seen it slashed across products at the supermarket, written on a menu at a café or seen it advertised on TV, the term superfood has been thrown around a lot in the past few years. But do superfoods really live up to all their health promises and do they actually give you super human powers?
Essentially when you break the word down, they are foods that have SUPER benefits for your health due to their high nutrient, phytochemical and antioxidant content when consumed regularly and in high amounts. (Hint hint…. HIGH amounts). While using the term “superfood” on products really is a marketing match made in heaven for companies by providing health conscious consumers with the promise of wellbeing, the hefty price tag that comes along with it isn’t quiet as desirable. So what makes kale fall under this superfood category and does it really have super human powers compared to other leafy green vegetables?
WHAT IS KALE?
Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Despite the recent hype around kale it has been a nutrition powerhouse for many years due to its high levels of vitamin A, C, K, iron, calcium and fibre.
WHY IS IT CLASSIFIED AS A SUPERFOOD?
- Kale is packed with antioxidants- Antioxidants are essential for mopping up the damage caused by free radicals in the body to prevent certain diseases such as heart disease, liver disease and some cancers from developing. Free radicals are created by oxidation when you stressed, consume alcohol, are exposed to environmental toxins and heavy metals and smoke cigarettes for example. Therefore, a diet high kale helps to reduce the oxidative stress on the body and mop up free radicals.
- Kale supports liver detoxification and oestrogen balance- Cruciferous vegetables such as kale contain sulphur-containing compounds know as glucosinolates which when chopped or chewed result in the formation of indole-3-carbinol (I3C). Whilst glucosinolates help support phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways in your liver, I3C in particular has been found to support oestrogen detoxification to maintain healthy oestrogen balance in the body.
- Kale has more calcium than milk- Per 100g, kale has 150mg of calcium compared to 125mg in regular full fat milk. Calcium is an essential nutrient for your bone health, muscle and nerve function.
- Kale supports cardiovascular health- Kale can reduce blood cholesterol levels due to it’s fibre content that can bind bile acids together, thereby increasing your HDL (good cholesterol) and reducing your LDL (bad cholesterol).
- Kale is packed with vitamin K- Vitamin K helps to regulate your body’s inflammatory processes and is an essential nutrient required in coagulation of blood (blood clotting).
HOW CAN I USE KALE?
When using kale, it is important to make sure you give it a good rinse under water first to make sure its clean. Next, make sure you remove the kale leaves from the stem. You can do this by either using your knife to cut down either side of the kale stalk (see image), or you can simply use your hands to pull the leaves off the stalk by pulling in a downwards motion.
Then you can use it to make…
- Kale chips
- Kale basil pesto (instead of adding a handful of baby spinach to the recipe, add a handful of kale)
- Add to smoothies** such as my mango magic smoothie
- A frittata such as my oven-baked pumpkin, kale & feta frittata
SHOULD I BE CAREFUL HOW MUCH KALE I CONSUME?
**Consuming kale in its raw form can be an issue for people with thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism as the goitrogens in kale can block the binding of iodine to thyroglobulin. Iodine is an essential nutrient needed for the conversion of thyroid hormones, therefore by blocking its action it can contribute to poor thyroid metabolism. That is why cooking kale either by steaming, baking or stir-frying is the best way to get all the nutrient-goodness without worrying about the nasty goitrogens side effects!
IS KALE BETTER FOR YOU THAN OTHER LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES?
To be honest, no kale is on par nutritionally with its other leafy green counterparts like spinach, collard greens, beet greens and watercress. The only difference is kale has been marketed to the public as being a SUPERFOOD and therefore is seen as having more nutritional value than other green vegetables.
So what’s the verdict?
Eat your greens no matter if they are called a superfood or not because chances are if you eating at least 2-3 cups of leafy green vegetables a day your probably going to have super human powers. Yes that’s right SUPER HUMAN POWERS. Well maybe not super human powers but you will feel amazing and your liver, heart and hormones will love you for it!